Looking at a cyclocross bike from a distance, it appears to be a type of road bike. Upon closer examination, a cyclocross bike looks like it was built out of leftover mountain bike and road bike parts.
Comparing Cyclocross Bikes to Road Bikes
A cyclocross bike is a bit beefier than the average road bike, with a wider frame and wider front fork, to allow for the use of wider tires. A cyclocross bike has drop handle bars, just like a road bike. However, the handle bars on a cross bike, are usually positioned a bit higher than a road bike, to allow for a more upright riding position. Cyclocross bikes usually use a mountain bike clipless pedal system rather than a road bike pedal.
Running at Cyclocross Races
Cyclocross racers dismount, and run with their bikes, whenever they come upon a barricade, tight turn, steep hill or other obstacle on the course. It is often faster to dismount and run with the bike, than to stay on the bike and try to negotiate the obstacle.
Because of all the running that occurs, during a typical cyclocross race, riders tend to wear mountain biking shoes instead of road biking shoes. It is much easier for the cyclocross racer to run across the course in mountain biking shoes thanks to their excellent traction. Mountain bike shoes are more flexible and offer a knobby tread compared to the stiffer, smooth soled road bike shoes.
Tires, Water Bottles and Brakes
A typical cyclocross tire has a bit of a tread to it, to allow the racer to tear through mud, sand, grass and other interesting cx trail conditions. Cyclocross tires are skinnier and lighter weight than a mountain bike tire, but much thicker and knobbier, than a slick road bike tire.
Cyclocross racers don’t attach water bottle cages to their bike frames. When the cyclocross racer comes across an obstacle, they dismount the bike and place the bike across their shoulder, so they can run through the course until they have cleared the obstacle. Once the obstacle has been cleared, the cyclocross racer quickly remounts the bike and continues riding the race course.
Because cross races occur in the fall and winter, the courses tend to get a bit wet and muddy. To allow for mud clearance, between the tire and bike frame, cross bikes typically use caliper or cantilever style brakes.
Mountain Bike or Dedicated Cross Bike
Beginner cyclocross racers may use a mountain bike to get the feel for this type of racing. But mountain bikes, with their rugged frames and disk brakes, are much heavier than a cyclocross bike. Cyclists that are seriously interested in the sport of cyclocross racing will end up purchasing a dedicated cyclocross bike. An entry level, aluminum frame cyclocross bike costs around $1,000, with top of the line carbon frame cross bikes priced at $4,000 or more.
Cyclocross Racing Schedule
Cyclocross races occur in the fall and winter months, and are a terrific way for road bikers to stay in shape during the off season. Cyclocross races occur over a certain amount of time, typically 30 to 60 minutes. Cyclocross racers will complete a certain number of laps on the course during this time, with novice cyclocross racers often getting lapped by the more experienced racers.